iRadio MAX Story 1

iRadio Max

The folllowing are stories that appeared on an interesting experiment, an internet radio-on-demand station, iRadioMAX, which has sadly folded. Read the scripts and listen to the shows on the links below:

Story 1.  DUBAI:  Centre Of The World

Listen to the broadcast :

1. DUBAI  ... Centre of the New World

“a known psychopath” called Bluey, had been chained-up. He hadn’t.
James recalls
“… he came out of the ground - as if on a lift.”

The buildings are like that in Dubai .

First come the cranes, thousands of them, like Triffids. About 20% of the world’s cranes are split between Beijing and here, spending weeks waving back and forth, then each suddenly appearing to pull a skyscraper out of the sand. In a while, their job is done, overnight they disassemble themselves, seemingly move a few metres, reassemble themselves and start again.

Most Baby boomer Australians know little about the Middle East . It is not their fault. Their Anzac grandfathers and fathers preferred not to talk about their experience in the first and second World Wars. But a look at the use of Gum trees shows we’ve been here before.

At school we were taught about England, the USA and precious little about our own country, except that all our Explorers died horrible, lonely deaths, either going for a leak in the Antarctic or starving in central Australia with swollen tongues and a sunburn we could barely imagine.

It says something about our forefathers though, that whilst perched on Sydney Harbour or in the cool shade beside the Yarra, you’d grab a few hundred guys, some tonnes of sugar and salt, a few huge wooden boats and proceed to the outback to find a place to go fishing.    

When it came to the Middle East we learnt absolutely nothing – except from Sunday School, sitting, itchy in our Sunday best – where we heard about ‘smoting’ and ‘begatting’ while Mum and Dad snuck home for a little begatting of their own, safe in the knowledge where the littlies were.

We learnt that you could go fishing in the Middle East , it was hot and sandy because everyone got around in bare feet – so hot; that the men wore towels on their heads; like we did on the way back from the swimming pool.

We learnt that it was violent; not unexpected really, considering the men wore dresses.

This violence, studied in the Bible, was reinforced during the mass pilgrimage to London when the Qantas jet stopped in the middle of the night for fuel (but not drinking water) on a three kilometre concrete strip in Bahrain .

To stand in buses in the steamy night air. Or if you were lucky, crammed into the shed of an airport terminal whilst the plane was serviced before returning into the sky.

Keeping you from straying into the god-forsaken Middle East was a skinny young man in an ill-fitting uniform, clearly in need of deodorant and a shave, holding a huge black steel machine gun.

Sweating, as the Qantas jet was coaxed back into the air, it was an image that would define our view of the region, reinforced by the nightly news which only focused only on skirmishes.

And it was a pretty apt description: violent.

Not the people so much as the land itself. This is an area where world’s collide – both culturally and tectonically.

Compared to Australia , where ancient seas and endless winds have worn down our continent so it has lumps rather than mountains – the Middle East looks like two continents have just survived a massive car crash, with steam still issuing from the radiator and the sound of a hubcap spinning to a stop.

The Eurasian and European Tectonic Plates slammed into each other so hard that, what was the sea floor is now 16,000 feet up in folds of rock – we know that because in the Zagros mountains, just a few hundred Kms north of Dubai, in Iran; they found fossils of a two kilogram sea snail who, one day 50 million years ago, was taken from the bottom of the ocean to twice the height of Mt Kosciusko by the violent earth.

So the geography is astounding – and a by-product of the massive collision, is oil and money.

Individual countries have prospered beyond their wildest dreams. Take, for example, the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain (less than half the size of Melbourne ’s suburban sprawl), which was the site of the first big Middle Eastern oil discovery in the 1930s.

Fed by underground fresh water springs, it used to be covered in vegetation – some say it was the original garden of Eden. It’s the first place in the world that they found Pearls and its prosperity was astounding.

Like Australia , the entire Middle East is about sea-side living.

The entire Arabian Peninsula, which keeps the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf apart, is only 1200 kms wide – less than the distance from Adelaide to Sydney .

The only people who live inland are the Saudis, in their capital, Riyadh , equivalent in location and temperature to Alice Springs . Both cities are two thousand feet above sea level, freeze at night and melt during the day.

It’s at the bottom of the Gulf where Dubai sits, facing North West ; close to the Straits of Hormuz thru which 20% of the world’s oil requirements are tankered each day.

Unlike Bahrain , Dubai has always been the lonely cousin who never had much in the way of pearls or oil – just a creek and a nice place for the men of the sea to stop a while, trade pearls and tell stories.

Dubai ’s a trading port, like Capetown , Singapore , Hong Kong & Shanghai; they’ve done it for centuries and they plan to do it better than anyone in the future.

The 800 km long body of water, called the Arabian Gulf by those on the left and the Persian Gulf by the Iranians who occupy the right, is headed on the left side by Iraq & tiny Kuwait . Further down the left side is Saudi Arabia , the island of Bahrain and the peninsula that is Qatar.

The United Arab Emirates , a collection of seven states that assumed its final form in 1972; sits along the bottom of the Gulf, just a fraction larger in area than Tasmania.

Oman owns the dislocated tip of land protruding into the Straits Of Hormuz, along with its Victoria-sized chunk that contains the stunning rugged mountains around Muscat facing the Gulf Of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

The rulers of Dubai since the early 1800s, the Al Maktoum family, have realised that uniforms and machine guns are not the way to attract the tourists so vital for their survival.

Dubai’s dwindling oil reserves attract only 6% of the Emirate’s income and are, for example, one twentieth the size of the reserves held by the adjoining emirate, and UAE Capital, Abu Dhabi.

So whilst the local and US military presence is strong in Kuwait , Saudi Arabia , Bahrain and Qatar ; the UAE appears devoid of uniforms and machine guns.

70% of the Police force is plain clothed and invisible to the holiday-makers streaming down from chilly European winters, six hours away.

The myth of the melting desert heat needs dispelling.

Dubai ’s about the same latitude as Rockhampton and receives four distinct seasons.

Winter, during the Australian summer, has overnight lows of about 15 and tops of 22, with a meager 13 cms of rain dumped in January.

Spring and autumn are glorious with lows of 17 to tops of 25 and cloudless blue skies.

Summer nights are down to about 22 and days topping 35 until the four hot mid-summer weeks where tops of 45 are possible. 

But 45 in a land of air-conditioned cars and buildings, designed around the heat, is much easier to deal with than summer in London on the day it reaches 30 and there’s not an air-conditioned car, theatre, train or bus in the entire country.

Summer in the Middle East is characterized by the vanishing of all the Expat wives and kids back to their home countries (summer school holidays are long); and the absence of the Arabs who seem to dislike the heat, escaping to Europe; as anyone who has tried to walk down London’s Oxford street  in July will know.

The building rush in Dubai is on, as is the rush to build the biggest and best in everything. It seems that every architect with a bright idea has been let loose here.

Their premier hotel, the memorable Burg Al Arab, is their current drawcard, along with residential developments dredged from the Gulf waters in the shapes of palm trees, dolphins and a Lambert Conformal map of the world.

To the astounding shopping malls, like the Mall of the  Emirates with its own ski slope, where it’s minus ten inside and where the mid station café sells the best on-pitse hot chocolates in the world.

And their plans for 40 kms of inland creek-side waterfront-living and the hideously sounding Dubailand – the theme park that will be larger than the entire principality of Monaco.

Dubai ’s new International Financial Centre will be center of the universe, being able to trade during opening hours of both Sydney and New York and everything in between.

Also in the center of the universe will be the new World International airport, capable of joining every city in the world by one flight.

The current Dubai airport has one functioning runway and last year moved 25 million passengers.  World International will have 6 runways, five terminals and move up to 128 million passengers a year, half a million a day.

As the first post-911 designed airport; it has been designed with security in mind, rather than as an add-on. So there will be no paper transactions, all shoes and hand bags will be scanned as you move along automatic walkways.

The mind boggles.

And keeps boggling here in Dubai . The trick to the place is that there are many tax-free zones in which to do business, most around the largest man-made sea port on the planet, called Jebel Ali.

There is Internet City , home of Microsoft and friends; Media city, where you find all the world’s TV networks. Knowledge City , full of universities and so on.

It’d be easy to laugh each one off, but as soon as a big company, Reuters, for example; sets up shop – all their competitors rush in, just in case it has a chance of working.

Next, all the best companies are here, sitting side-by-ide and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Then come the sportsmen – seen as cash cows by their high-taxing home governments. Not any more. They come here to live, (most likely in free mansions), and their fans follow. Roger Fedora is one, and its rumoured that Michael Schumacher is also moving here.

The population of 1.5 million, has 300,000 locals, with the remainder expatriate  (or expat) workers. India and Pakistan provide most of the outdoor working male labour while Filipino men and women occupy most of the indoor customer service roles.

Their contracts and living conditions have been the subject of much scrutiny, leading the Rulers to decree that the age of slave labour is over. Now all workers will receive supposedly “the best worker conditions in the world” – proper contracts, better living conditions, medical and dental care.

It seems that whenever a problem arises it is fixed with all haste and an open cheque book.

Take the quality of the water in the Gulf, for example. A friend was privy to the discussion between the ruling Sheikh and a leading environmentalist. When asked if he could make Dubai into the world’s best example of a pristine environment, he said “Yes, but it will cost a lot of money.” The Sheikh replied, “I didn’t mention money…”

As the number of cars grows at the rate of 20% a year they have addressed the traffic problem by installing new bridges over the Dubai Creek and building a rail system. All with the characteristic haste you’d expect.

At the human level, Aussies have taken over the place. The national airline, Emirates, is swarming with Ansett refugees. And the huge building firms have many specialist Australian engineers.

About five years ago there were about 3000 Australians in Dubai . That number is now  about 25,000 enjoying the gold rush lifestyle, in city which is squeezing up between the sand and the sea, coming out of the ground, like Bluey, … as if on a lift.

Clive James described the moment when, as a small boy, he visited his friend and made the mortal mistake of entering his front garden without checking if the family dog,

Story 2.  THE U.K.  End Of The Empire
BBC Radio 4 killed it's Opening Theme and the Empire
Story 3.    Looking  Out  The  Window
Flying, global warming, bushfires and the human spirit 
Story 4.  BA 777 Crash Initial Reaction
24 hours after a double-engine failure, why are 777s still flying?